Black Listed: African American Writers and the Cold War Politics of Integration, Surveillance, Censorship, and Publication (Spring, 2018)

Cathy N. Davidson (The Graduate Center, English)
Shelly Eversley (Baruch College, English) 

Tuesdays, 6:30-8:30pm


This course examines the inter-relationship between the Cold War, the early Civil Rights movement, and the writing and censorship of African American writers. By looking at a range of literary and theoretical texts, we will work to understand the relationship between a range of legal and social conditions and the forms of Black expression at that time. We will be looking at writers who were deeply involved in activism and the Civil Rights movement (such as W.E.B. DuBois and Paul Robeson), writers who wrote against and around censorship especially of same-sex sexual and affective relationships (such as Chester Himes and James Baldwin), writers who had to leave America to write about it (including Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright and others), and writers, especially Black women writers, who did not have the freedom to leave the U.S. and who, for the most part, disappeared within America and to literary history (including Alice Childress and Ann Petry).

We will be using student-centered, activist, engaged pedagogy in this class to have students take an intellectual lead in shaping the content and the requirements of the course and will structure virtual and other platforms such that every student leaves with something published (online, in print, or in a conference paper), some pedagogical tools for their teaching, and other contributions to their graduate career and beyond. An especially exciting and fruitful project we hope to undertake is the excavation and editing of a forgotten text, now available only at the Schomburg Library, All in the Family by Thelma Wamble. Working with Prof Davidson, and with guidance from the Wikimedia Foundation, students will learn how to improve and create Wikipedia entries (including for Wamble) and build an online archive based on original research. Students will also have the opportunity to work with Prof Eversley on a contemporary edition of All in the Family.


The Futures Initiative
The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016-4309